Contra Costa County health officials have linked 11 confirmed cases of tuberculosis to staff and customers of California Grand Casino in Pacheco and urged those who spent time in the building in the last five years to get tested for the highly infectious disease.
County health officials said 10 of the cases are genetically linked and the majority are associated with staff or customers who spent time at the casino, according to the county. The 11th case has not yet been genetically tested.
Health officials recommend that anyone who has spent time inside the casino in Pacheco since 2018 should consider getting tested.
Contra Costa Health has not identified a current or ongoing source of transmission at the casino. It's closely working with casino management to ensure prompt, appropriate testing, health advice and screening for all its staff, according to county officials.
The health department said it has contacted more than 300 people who may have been exposed to active tuberculosis and is working with California Grand Casino management to provide health education to staff and to encourage testing.
How is tuberculosis spread?
Tuberculosis is an airborne disease caused by a bacterium called Mycobacterium tuberculosis, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The bacteria usually infects the lungs but also can attack any part of the body, including the kidneys, spine and brain.
Symptoms include a cough that can last for weeks, loss of appetite, unintentional weight loss, fever, chills, and night sweats. While tuberculosis can cause serious illness and, in some cases, even be fatal, the disease is treatable and curable with medication.
Someone with tuberculosis of the lungs or throat can spread the germs by coughing, sneezing, speaking or singing.
When a person breathes in the bacteria, the bacteria can settle in the lungs and begin to grow. It can then move through the blood to other parts of the body, such as the kidney, spine and brain.
People with "latent tuberculosis" often have no symptoms, don't get sick and can't spread the bacteria to others, according to the American Lung Assn. But the bacteria remains in the body.
Tuberculosis can live inside the body for years without becoming active or showing signs of its presence, said Dr. Meera Sreenivasan, deputy health officer for Contra Costa County.
But in some people, especially those who have a weak immune system, the bacteria can eventually become active, multiply and cause tuberculosis disease.
"That is why it's important to take a test, even if you do not feel sick," Sreenivasan said. "Tuberculosis can cause serious illness, but it is treatable and curable with medicine, especially when caught early."
Anyone who believes they may have been exposed to tuberculosis is urged to talk to their healthcare provider or call Contra Costa Health tuberculosis client services program at (925) 313-6740. Visit cchealth.org/tb for more information about tuberculosis.
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.